BridgeBee: An Interactive Beehive of Bridge Hands
By Alex J. Coyne For Great Bridge Links
June, 2020 – BridgeBee is a new bridge trainer app with a difference. A hybrid between a bridge lesson and an interactive AI-guided chatbot, this could be one of the best ways to inspire players and hone skills. It could do for bridge education what DuoLingo and its owl mascot has done for language learning.
We interviewed Mary Maier from Baron Barclay about the beginnings of BridgeBee – and why every bridge player should check it out.
- BridgeBee Official Website
- BridgeBee Official Store
- Available as App or In-Browser
- No Registration or Sign-Up Required
- Playable Bridge Hands
- Guided AI Expert Chat
- Filter Hands by Level, Bidding & Type
- In-App Store
- 50+ Free Hands
- Custom Content for Clubs & Teachers
What Is BridgeBee?
BridgeBee works as a hybrid between a bridge lesson and a chatbot. Mary says that the primary goal of BridgeBee is to support players in their lessons and to encourage further growth.
“BridgeBee provides interactive, author-guided playable hands focusing on specific topics and strategies.”
Playable hands are presented together with AI-driven sideline commentary from an expert. Users make it through these hands from the first bid to the last trick guided by the intelligent chat to the side.
“This gives players a streamlined learning environment which allows them to strengthen their abilities in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible. While BridgeBee might not be ideal for people who don’t yet know what tricks or trumps are, there are many hands that are perfect for someone who has taken even just one lesson.”
Hands are available from a vast in-app library. Some can be played for free, while others can be downloaded from the BridgeBee Store. Different playing styles and difficulty levels are supported. “Users can filter hands based on the level, bidding system and even type (such as declarer, defense or mixed).”
Available hands are drawn from a variety of sources, including user contributions, famous hands, bridge columns and books like Bidding in the 21st Century.
Commentary During Play
One feature that makes BridgeBee stand out as something special is the addition of expert commentary with every bid and trick.
It’s presented in a style that reminds of a live IM chat with an experienced teacher or player. With every move, a new comment pops up – and it lets you know if you’re playing or bidding in the right direction. If you’re wrong, it advises you to choose another bid or card.
“It’s the closest thing to a private lesson,” says Mary. “It really makes the learning process fun as well as effective.”
With an increase in bridge products utilizing AI and robots, she says they wanted to do something different.
“We really wanted to make the app feel personal and friendly. James and Leo came up with the idea of a chat bar very early in the wire-framing process; it was instantly apparent that it was going to be a standout feature.”
We can thank James Ward and Leo Fowler (Pianola/Marketing Solutions) and Mary & Jim Maier of Baron Barclay for the creation of BridgeBee.
Mary says that the name was originally inspired by the concept of the Spelling Bee. “A beehive is the industrious, social gathering place that seemed like the perfect metaphor for what we were trying to create. Learning that the bee symbolizes wisdom sealed the deal.”
“The entire design of the app – from registering, to purchasing, to playing – was designed to stand out with its emphasis on a modern and easy-to-use interface.” notes Mary. “We’re still building our library, but it’s already packed with incredibly fun and informative hands by some of the bridge world’s brightest minds.”
For those interested in the internal parts of programming, she reveals that it was built on the AWS Lambda serverless architecture using Node and GraphQL (with a React + Apollo front-end).
Lending Hands to Learning Players
BridgeBee has an impressive – and growing – library of hands.
The available hands are drawn from a mixture of user contributions and famous hands: Choose from Frank Stewart’s Daily Bridge Column or purchase another set of interactive bridge hands from the store.
“We’ve been working with some great authors so far, including established experts, rising stars and fresh faces.” says Mary. “We also plan to add interesting hands from the NABCs (in real time), which I think will be fun! Getting to play a hand exactly like the best in the field will be a very exciting way to hone your skills.”
BridgeBee is also meant to be seen as a platform for authors to create their own content without the need to create their own app. “Clubs and independent teachers can create their own content for their students to accompany their curriculums, presented through BridgeBee’s smooth interface.”
“We see BridgeBee as the premier digital education platform for bridge going forward,” says Mary.
New features and content will be added on a regular basis – and for now, over 50 free hands are available on the app to introduce players to the authors and the gameplay.